Pune: Once they manned the country’s borders. Today, some of them, already past their prime, are manning BRTS routes in Pune, while being subjected to humiliation, threats and even physical assault by traffic violators.
Meet the 300 odd retired army men, who have been employed by the state transport department to make sure that BRTS routes aren’t misused. However, these ex-servicemen have no proper place to sit, no shed, no washrooms nearby and no means to stop the wrongdoers. On the contrary, they are often verbally abused by violators.
These 300 armed forces veterans have been assigned with the job of guarding BRTS routes across the city.
They are assigned the job of not allowing vehicles other than PMPML buses and emergency vehicles to enter the BRTS routes through Sangamwadi, Aundh, Chandan Nagar, Wagholi, Hadapsar and other designated routes under the Pune Municipal Corporation.
Each personnel manning these routes works for a shift of eight hours and is paid a meagre salary of Rs 14,000. They do not have a cabin to take rest. They stand in adverse climatic conditions. These former army men are abused and even assaulted for doing their duty by violators.
A 53-year-old retired Havildar from Maratha Light Infantry, manning the BRTS route at the Sangamwadi Bridge (requesting anonymity), said, “I was in Indian Army for 26 years. I served the nation to the best of my abilities. I have fought in the Kargil War. However, not for once during my service life, did I ever imagined that I would be humiliated after retirement by the people of our country, for whom we fought with the enemy on the border, that too, for requesting them to follow traffic rules.”
The retired Havildar said commuters enter BRTS routes with their vehicles. He said, “When we stop them, they abuse and threaten to beat us up. Most of these people are serving local politicians. We can’t fight these people as we don’t have any support from the police or municipal authorities. Sometimes, policemen also flout the rules by entering BRTS lanes.”
Another retired army personnel from 81 Armoured Regiment, manning the BRTS route at Sangamwadi, said, “On Tuesday, a car (MH12KC63) entered from the Sangamwadi side and broke the rope tied across the lane. The car bore the flag of a party. We requested the car driver not to enter the BRTS lane but he didn’t listen to us and broke the rope. After 15 minutes, he again entered the lane forcefully from the Sadal Baba Dargah end. We later found out that the car belonged to Vaishali Gaikwad. We filed a complaint with the Yerawada police to take action against the driver.”
Another army veteran belonging to 18 Field Regiment, manning a BRTS route at Aundh, said, “I have been guarding BRTS routes since August 2015. We have not been given a single chair to sit on, or an umbrella to protect us from rain or sunshine. We have made a makeshift chair of paver blocks. We have made a temporary shade from torn out posters. During the rainy season, we get drenched, despite wearing raincoats. In summer, it becomes difficult to bear the heat without a proper cabin. We can still survive without these basic facilities. However, we cannot bear humiliation and threats on a daily basis.”
Another army veteran belonging to Maratha Light Infantry, manning the BRTS route at Chandan Nagar, said, “We are former soldiers of a prestigious institution like the Indian Army. We have served our nation, many of our soldiers have given their lives in the service of the nation. It is sad that in our retiring years, we are being abused by local goons or politicians, sometimes, even by children and drunkards driving cars.”
“Recently, on January 14, during the Armed Forces Veteran Day, Southern Command GOC-IN-C Lt Gen DR Soni praised army veterans for their service to the nation. He said the army is respected because of the selfless service of army veterans. He even said that army veterans should approach the army with their grievances. But the army is respected by people only in films or during wartime. Once an army person retires or is martyred, nobody respects him or his family. People forget them,” he said.
‘Traffic violator knocked me down’
Ramchandra Chavan, who has worked for 26 years in the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers as a Bofors mechanic, was severely injured by a traffic violator while guarding the BRTS route at Sangamwadi in July 2017. He was bedridden for over a month, as his shoulder was dislocated and a leg was fractured.
Chavan said, “The incident happened on the evening of July 20, 2017. A car was trying to enter the BRTS lane. I tried to stop it. The driver sped up and knocked me down and fled. A complaint was registered later at the Yerawada police station. I have served at various border posts of our country but was never hurt. I never thought that I will be injured by a traffic violator while on duty after retirement.”